If you thought the Spring Championship of Online Poker 2021 couldn’t get any more exciting, the announcement that high stakes pro Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot was joining Team PokerStars will have certainly changed your mind.
Talbot–who has been crushing MTTs for years–was unveiled as a Team Pro on the PokerStars live stream on Monday night (April 5).
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) April 5, 2021
“These past couple of days have been very exciting,” Talbot tells me a couple of days after the news broke. “After the announcement on the live stream I fired up a couple of SCOOP tables including the $5K and it was really fun to see the red spade next to my name.”
If you’ve ever found yourself on the same online table as Talbot, you probably thought one of two things, if not both.
The first is ‘Damn, I’ve got Tonkaaaa on my table’. After all, he has more than $6.7 million in online cashes, according to PocketFives, with more than $5.5 million won on PokerStars alone. He won two Stadium Series titles in 2020 for a combined $322K, won his first WCOOP title a few weeks later, and over a storied career has enjoyed six-figure scores in SCOOP, the Sunday Million, and the Super Tuesday.
To summarise, he’s not a player you want to mess with.
The second is ‘Awesome! I’ve got Tonkaaaa on my table!’ because on the flip side, he’s absolutely someone you want to mess with. When he first started streaming on Twitch five or six years ago, Talbot quickly established as one of the most fun and entertaining streamers around and built a loyal and ever-growing fan base known as ‘Team NeverLucky’.
“After the announcement a bunch of people on the tables congratulated me and I was getting showered in throwables,” he says. “The response has also been great on social media. Exciting times.”
Thankfully, Talbot hasn’t experienced any ‘TEAM PRO!’ comments just yet. “Obviously I’m insanely unlucky, so I haven’t really sucked out on anybody yet,” he says. “But hopefully, I’ll have lots of suck-outs throughout SCOOP and get people whining. That would be great actually.”
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Talbot got into poker while studying at Ottawa University and grinding his way up the Sit & Go ladder until he reached the high stakes. “If you’d have told 18-year-old Parker he’d one day become a PokerStars Team Pro he definitely would have just laughed at you,” he says. “He wouldn’t even believe that I’d be streaming. When I first told my friends that I was going to start streaming five or six years ago they all laughed at me because I was always never public with things on social media. So becoming a Team Pro would have seemed pretty outlandish, I’d say.”
Eventually, he switched to multi-table tournaments (MTTs) and for years would stream his play before taking a break to work on his game.
His time away from streaming paid off big, with 2020 ending as one of the most successful years of his career. Now that he’s a member of Team PokerStars, he’s itching to get back on the Twitch grind.
“It’s going to be a fun time working with the other guys,” he says. “All of the PokerStars streamers are great, but Lex, Spraggy, Fintan, Sam and I definitely have some things in the works.”
That ‘Sam’ he mentions is none other than Sam “SamSquid” Grafton, who also joined the PokerStars Team Pro on Monday after a year of providing world-class commentary on PokerStars Twitch streams and years of crushing world-class competition on the tables.
“I have every second of the day for Samuel,” says Talbot. “He’s such a loudmouth and I’m an insane loudmouth as well, so whenever we’re in the same room, I swear we always yell at each other. I’ll just come over and start giving him a massage and tell him to shut up, you know, just stupid stuff always goes on. My experiences with Sam have always been good. Every trip we usually find a way to get dinner or grab a couple of drinks. We’re the jesters of the court, more or less.”
When Talbot first started playing, he found poker friends through forums and Skype study groups. Now he’s joining a team already made up of his good friends.
“There are so many opportunities to do fun things,” he says. “When I was streaming before it was just me doing my own thing, but now there’s going to be a lot more collaboration and general nonsense going on.”
On the tables, however, it’s going to be all business for Talbot who these days regularly plays the biggest MTTs running. Does it ever feel strange playing for such high stakes on a daily basis?
“I think it’s just repetitiveness,” he says. “Doing it over and over again just normalises it, y’know? When I was playing Sit & Go’s and first started moving up the ranks, it was like ‘Oh my God, I’m playing a $1K’ and I’d focus on it so much more. Then it was $2Ks and eventually $5Ks and it just kind of happens.
“Also, positive variance can make you feel like you belong in places that you absolutely don’t,” he adds. “There have definitely been times in my career where I’ve ended up in a tournament where I think I’m winning but I’m only breaking even or even slightly losing, but some recent positive variance made me feel like I belong. I would say that’s also the case for a ton of high stakes poker players.”
There’s no time of the year in which poker players pray for positive variance than SCOOP, and Talbot can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back and firing it all up during SCOOP,” he says. “We’re only three days in but hopefully I can start channelling my inner Spraggy and make Day 2 in everything I register.”